The dance scene is growing in Grants Pass!
We love the arts and culture in our town. There are so many outlets for residents to express themselves. Dancing is just one of them that is growing in popularity, thanks to the efforts of people like Melissa at Candela Dance Studio.
An Interview with Melissa, Owner of Candela Dance Studio
by Sara Antonuccio
In October of 2014, Melissa McRobbie brought the culture of dance to our small town. A West Coast Swing dancer, Melissa noticed a gaping hole in the dance community here in Grants Pass, and before long an idea began to form. From that idea, and with the help of a successful Kickstarter campaign, Candela was born.
Candela Dance Studio has quickly become a hotspot, drawing in people of all ages to the multitude of classes and special events. In just three short years, the studio has grown to offer more than just West Coast Swing and salsa; the class list includes English country, nightclub, country 2-step, Bachata, tango, and more.
Thanks to Candela’s sterling reputation, I succeeded in dragging my partner out for a night of Tango with Kyle. Anticipating an evening of embarrassment, we went in with a sense of trepidation - and left feeling exhilarated. Our plans to stick together and hide in the background were thwarted when it was announced that we would be rotating partners. Let me tell you, nothing has forced me to get over my shyness quite like being led around the room in the arms of a stranger did. Through the bond of shared embarrassment, we all stumbled and stepped our way across the floor, celebrating small victories and laughing away the many mistakes.
"My other goal was to grow a dance community and create a friendly and safe place for people to learn to dance."
After this wonderful experience, I tracked down Melissa to find out more about how it all began:
What made you want to start up a dance studio in Grants Pass?
I came to Grants Pass about four years ago from the Bay Area, where there were opportunities to dance West Coast Swing and salsa - my two favorite dances - nearly seven nights a week. I wanted to share my love of those dances with people here. Now we also have bachata, country, ballroom, Zumba, tango, ecstatic dance, Nia, yoga and English country dancing.
My other goal was to grow a dance community and create a friendly and safe place for people to learn to dance. My favorite studio in the Bay Area was called Two Left Feet and it felt like a home away from home, sort of like the dance version of the TV show "Cheers." I wanted to create that happy space for people here.
Do you witness people coming out of their shells and getting more comfortable in their own skin after coming to class?
Definitely! An important part of partner dancing is building your dance "frame" - that means taking a deep breath, bringing your shoulders back, lifting your head and creating a big, open feeling with your upper body. When you're trained to hold yourself this way, it also affects your life off the dance floor. I've seen people come to class with a hunched posture, almost like they're hiding themselves. Over the weeks and months, they literally open up and I can see their confidence grow. They smile more, too!
Many people come to dance during transitional periods in their lives - they're new to town, newly divorced, recently widowed, or maybe their kids have grown and moved out and they're on their own. It's fun to see people blossom and discover new sides of themselves.
"It's worth taking that leap because dance brings so much joy."
What events have you added to the lineup? Anything new in the works?
We're always brainstorming new and fun ideas. Our latest addition is karaoke dance nights. We had our first one earlier [in September] and it was super fun. It's just what it sounds like: dancing to people singing karaoke. It got very silly.
Our lineup in the [last] few months [of the year] included our 3-year anniversary party on Oct. 13, a Halloween party, an ugly Christmas sweater party and a winter formal. We also always have a dance party on First Friday.
What demographic do you see in your classes?
We see all ages, from teenagers to people in their 80s and beyond. Some people are afraid they're too old to learn to dance, which is not true. Some classes like Zumba and line dancing tend to draw more women, but we've also had men in those classes, too. Recently, we've had more men than women in our West Coast Swing class. Dance is for everyone, so I always encourage prospective students to put aside their fears that they're too old, too "awkward" or too shy to participate in class. It's worth taking that leap because dance brings so much joy.
If Melissa has inspired you as much as she did me, head on over to Candela’s website and take a look at the class schedule. A new and rewarding experience awaits.